Gary Foster: a weighty new challenge

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in last Friday’s edition.Gary Foster is moonlighting.The director of Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education has assumed the presidency of the Obesity Society, an interdisciplinary group based in Maryland that is considered to hold preeminence in the field ofgary-foster.jpg obesity. The commitments are demanding.“It’s a challeneg and opportunity. The presidential activities take considerable time and effort,” said Foster, 48, who grew up in Levittown.The benefit for Temple is the increased visibility Foster is giving CORE, which opened in March 2006 on Temple’s health sciences campus.“The work is not all unreated, so there’s lots of synergies,” said Foster, who was courted from his position as clinical director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders to start Temple’s program. He traded 25 years at Penn for the chance to chair the largest school-based obesity prevention trial in the country, based in more than 10,000 square feet of dedicated research and clinical space.In 1981, he took a research assistant position at the University of Pennsylvania. There he worked under the legendary obesity physician Dr. Albert J. Stunkard, among other “luminaries,” including Kelly D. Brownell, who is now the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.“It was pretty clear for me,” he said. From then on, a man who never had a weight problem himself was determined to find a reason why so many others do.He went back to school. He got a masters in psychology from Penn and his PhD in clinical psychology from Temple. And his interest continues.“We don’t know as much about obesity as the lay public thinks we do,” he said. “We eat too much and don’t exercise enough… it’s more complex than that.”He has been a part of the group for nearly 20 years. Now, as president, he thinks it’s time to decide for what the group wants to be known.“Obesity is the most prevelant, serious public health issue of our time,” he said. “We at the Obesity Society need to be poisted to address that…”